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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Many critics have endeavored to show that this prophecy Jeremiah 50-51 was not written by Jeremiah. Others grant that Jeremiah was the true author, yet assert that the prhophecy has been largely interpolated. The arguments for its authenticity are briefly stated in the following:
(a) The superscription Jeremiah 50:1, and the appended history Jeremiah 51:59-64;
(b) The general admission that the style is Jeremiah's;
(c) The fact that the author was living at Jerusalem (Jeremiah 50:5, where read "hitherward," not "thitherward");
(d) The Medes and not the Persians are described as the future conquerors of Babylon Jeremiah 51:11, Jeremiah 51:28.
The knowledge of topography and Babylonian customs is not more than Jeremiah may have learned from the Chaldaeans when they were at Jerusalem in the fourth, and again in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim: and there was constant contact by letter and otherwise between Babylon and Jerusalem.
The prophecy may be considered essential to the right discharge by Jeremiah of the duties of his office. He had foretold the capture and ruin of Jerusalem, not from love to Babylon, but as a necessary act of the divine justice, and as the one remedy for Judah's sins. He recognized the Chaldaeans as Yahweh's ministers; but recognizing also that they practiced wanton barbarities, and claimed the g ory for themselves and their gods, he proclaimed that Babylon must be punished for its cruelty, its pride, and its idolatry.
The date is fixed by Jeremiah 51:59. With this agrees the internal evidence.
Though deficient in arrangement the prophecy is full of grand ideas; and the similarity between passages in this prophecy and Isaiah illustrates the large knowledge which Jeremiah evidently possessed of the earlier Scriptures, and the manner in which, consciously or unconsciously, he has perpetually imitated them in his own writings.
1The word that the LORD spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.
Against ... against - Concerning.
2Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces.
Confounded ... confounded - ashamed ... ashamed.
Merodach - This deity, in the inscriptions Marduk, was the tutelary god of Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar, who called his son Evil-Merodach, appears to have been especially devoted to his service. He was really identical with Bel, and his equivalent among the planets was Jupiter: and as such he was styled "King of heaven and earth."
3For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast.
Out of the north - Media lay to the northwest of Babylon. This constant use of the north, the quarter where the sun never shines, and therefore the region of darkness, is symbolic of the region from where danger ever comes.
They shall remove ... - Translate it (as in Jeremiah 9:10): "from man even to cattle they are fled, they are gone."
4In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.
The fall of Babylon is to be immediately followed by the return of the exiles homewards, in tearful procession, because they go as penitents; and yet with joy, because their faces are toward Zion. The cessation moreover of the schism between Israel and Judah is one of the signs of the times of the Messiah Isaiah 11:12-13, and symbolically represents the gathering together of the warring empires of the world under the peaceful scepter of the Church's King.
Going and weeping: they shall go - Omit the colon; i. e., "they go ever onward weeping."
5They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.
Thitherward - Hereward; the writer evidently was at Jerusalem.
6My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.
Their shepherds ... mountains - Some translate it: Their shepherds, i. e., civil rulers (Jeremiah 2:8 note) "have led them astray upon the seducing moutains." - the mountains being the usual places where idolatry was practiced.
Their restingplace - Their fold Psalm 23:2.
7All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.
Offend not - i. e., "are not guilty." Israel having left the fold, has no owner, and may therefore be maltreated with impunity.
Habitation of justice - In Jeremiah 31:23 applied to Jerusalem: here, Yahweh alone is the true pasturage, in whom His people will find safety, rest, and plenty.
8Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks.
So firmly did the Jews settle themselves in Babylon under Jeremiah's counsels, that they were the last to abandon the place.
He goats - See Isaiah 14:9 note.
9For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.
I will raise - Or, stir up.
An assembly of great nations - The Medo-Persian empire was as much an aggregate of discordant nations as that of Babylon.
From thence - From the north, i. e., by the great nations coming thence.
Return in vain - A proverbial expression for ill success (compare Isaiah 55:11). Here the skillful warrior returns not empty.
10And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the LORD.
Or, "Chaldaea shall become a spoil ... for thou wast glad, thou exultedst, ye plunderers of mine heritage."
Because ye are grown fat - Rather, for thou leapedst, skippedst as an animal does when playing.
As the heifer at grass - Or, as a heifer threshing. When threshing cattle were allowed to eat their fill Deuteronomy 25:4, and so grew playful.
Bellow as bulls - Better as in the margin.
11Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;
12Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
Your mother - i. e., Babylon. Confounded ... ashamed. Or, ashamed ... blush.
Behold ... - Translate, "Behold she is the hindermost of the nations, a desert, a thirsty land, and a waste:" - the reason why Babylon is to blush. Once the head of gold Daniel 2:32, she is now the lowest of earthly powers.
13Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.
14Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the LORD.
place the colon after bow.
15Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.
Shout - i. e., spoken of the war-cry. So in Isaiah 42:13, where God is compared to a warrior, it is said He shall shout (the King James Version cry), i. e., raise the war-cry.
Site hath given her hand - The sign of submission (compare 1 Chronicles 29:24 margin).
Foundations - Or, buttresses. The Septuagint: "battlements."
16Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his own land.
The population is to be destroyed so utterly that the rich fields of Babylonia are to remain untilled.
They shall turn - The full force of the words will be seen if it be remembered that it had been the policy of Nebuchadnezzar to compel citizens selected from the vanquished nations to settle in Babylonia.
17Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones.
Israel is a scattered sheep - i. e., is like a flock which has been scared and driven in all directions, for lions have chased him.
First the king ... - Rather, the first lion "ate him, even the king of Assyria; and this one, the last, heath picked his bones, even Nebuchadrezzar etc." The constant wasting of the land by the Assyrians had so lessened the number of Israel, that Nebuchadnezzar had but the bones to pick.
18Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria.
19And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.
Or, "I will bring Israel (the scared sheep) back to his pasturage (see Jeremiah 50:7) and he shall graze etc." The places named are the districts of Palestine most famous for their rich herbage.
20In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.
Those days - The days of the Messiah.
Reserve - Or, permit to remain: hence, the remnant, a word pregnant with meaning in the language of the prophets. See Isaiah 8:18 note (2).
21Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD, and do according to all that I have commanded thee.
The land of Merathaim - of double rebellion. Like Mitsraim, i. e., the two Egypts, Aram-Naharaim, i. e., Syria of the two rivers, or Mesopotamia, it is a dual. It may have been a real name; or - the dual ending being intensive - it may mean the land of very great rebelliousness.
Pekod - Possibly a Babylonian town.
Waste - Rather, slay, Jeremiah 50:27.
22A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.
23How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!
The hammer - Babylon, by whose instrumentality Yahweh had crushed the nations, is now cut asunder, i. e., the head of iron or bronze is cut away from the wooden handle, and broken.
24I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against the LORD.
I have laid a snare for thee - Babylon, the impregnable, was taken (according to Herodotus) by Cyrus by stratagem. Having diverted the waters of the Euphrates, he entered the city by the river channel: but see Daniel 5:1 note.
And thou wast not aware - Better literally, and thou didst not know it.
25The LORD hath opened his armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation: for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.
By a grand figure the prophet describes Yahweh arming Himself that in person He may execute justice upon the wicked city.
For this is the work - Rather, for my Lord Yahweh of hosts hath a work to do in the land of the Chaldaeans.
26Come against her from the utmost border, open her storehouses: cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left.
Against her - Or, to her, in order to plunder her. Her storehouses (literally granaries) are to burst open, the grain piled up in heaps, and finally they are to devote her to destruction, i. e., to burn her wealth with fire.
From the utmost border - (Or, "from the first of you even to the last").
Let nothing of her be left - literally, let her have no remnant. Contrast Jeremiah 5:10.
27Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation.
Her bullocks - Her strong youths.
28The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of his temple.
The voice of them ... - i. e., There is a sound of fugitives escaping from Babylonia. The Jews saw in the fall of Babylon Yahweh's vengeance for His temple.
29Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel.
Or, "Summon the archers to Babylon, even all who bend the bow: encamp against her etc." In this portion of the prophecy the capture of Babylon is regarded as the punishment due to her for burning the temple Jeremiah 50:28.
30Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD.
31Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD of hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee.
Babylon is here called Pride, just as in Jeremiah 50:21 she was called Double-rebellion.
32And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.
Him ... his ... him - Or, her.
33Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together: and all that took them captives held them fast; they refused to let them go.
Were oppressed - are "oppressed together: and all their captors have laid firm hold upon them: they have refused to let them go." The restoration of Israel and Judah to their land is necessary. As Babylon will not let them go, it must be broken, and its empire destroyed.
34Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.
Redeemer - i. e., גאל gā'al. Yahweh is Israel's next relative, bound by law to avenge him, as well as to ransom him from captivity. It was the Go'el's duty also to plead his kinsman's cause. How thoroughly Yahweh will execute this duty for Israel is shown in the Hebrew by the triple repetition of the same word; literally "in pleading He will plead their plea."
The land ... - Rather, "the earth." Babylon has hitherto by its ambition kept the world in unrest: now by its fall men everywhere can dwell in security.
35A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the LORD, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men.
Omit "is." A summons comes from Yahweh, Israel's Goel, to the sword to fall upon all the elements of Babylon's greatness. The princes were her rulers at home and her generals in war. The wise men were those upon whose learning she so prided herself (Daniel 1:4 note).
36A sword is upon the liars; and they shall dote: a sword is upon her mighty men; and they shall be dismayed.
Liars - Soothsayers, fortune-tellers.
37A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her; and they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures; and they shall be robbed.
The mingled people - i. e., the foreigners serving as mercenaries in her army.
38A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.
A drought - Rather, "a sword," i. e., military skill and forethought.
They are mad upon their idols - Omit their. The word for idols, literally terrors Psalm 88:16 is used in this one place only of objects of worship. Probably it refers to those montrous forms invented as representations of their deities.
39Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.
Wild beasts of the islands - Jackals.
Owls - Ostriches (marginal reference note).
40As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.
41Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
An application to Babylon of the doom against Jerusalem Jeremiah 6:22-24.
The coasts of the earth - See the Jeremiah 6:22 note.
42They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon.
43The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pangs as of a woman in travail.
44Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan unto the habitation of the strong: but I will make them suddenly run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?
A similar application to Babylon of what was said of Edom (marginal reference).
45Therefore hear ye the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Babylon; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitation desolate with them.
46At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations.